Keeping up with Kirby?

Dan Wolken’s piece illustrates something I expect we’ll see a lot more of this offseason if Georgia actually manages to pull off back-to-back nattys, namely, an evaluation of Kirby Smart’s career trajectory in the context of Nick Saban’s.  Now, Saban’s the GOAT, so it’s not like we’re gonna see the world swoon and proclaim that the pupil has surpassed the master in the grand scheme of things.

But I also read quotes like this and wonder if this is no longer Saban’s time.

“We probably have to do a much better job of making sure you have great relationships with all your players,” Saban said of what he learned this season. “I think it’s more difficult in the landscape of college football to be able to keep people focused because there’s a lot of external factors that can affect them. You want them to be able to stay focused on the task at hand. That’s what they control, and that’s what really builds value for them and their future. I think that’s the No. 1 thing we would like to do a better job of in the future.”

If there’s one thing (besides recruiting, that is) that’s brought Kirby Smart to the pinnacle of the college football mountain, it’s his ability to navigate things like NIL and the transfer portal to build a winning culture in Athens.  If I’m reading that quote correctly, Nick Saban admits he’s got work to do in that area.  Now, this is still Nick Saban, so I wouldn’t discount the possibility that he figures out a way to get that done, but it’s still somewhat remarkable that Mr. Process admits he’s got work to do in an area that ‘Bama stood head and shoulders above everyone else in college football for so long.



Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules

41 responses to “Keeping up with Kirby?

  1. originaluglydawg

    Taking a lot of talent from the portal is a two-edged sword.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. Derek

    Must be human. Repeat. Must be human. Repeat.

    Liked by 5 people

    • godawgs1701

      you could literally see his program running in real time on Saturday night during the Big Ten halftime. “Make statement…, listen… respond… activate smile protocol … hold smile… hold smile…”

      Liked by 3 people

  3. uga97

    Saban didn’t create any of these player affecting external factors, by opening his mouth about Jimbo now did he?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. He talks about focusing on the task at hand … that’s pure Alabama Process.

    What Kirby has done is to take that mentality (You keep choppin’ wood) and added connection to it (You keep choppin’ wood not because I said so but because everyone in the room – players and coaches – are doing it and accountable for it, too).

    It’s the Process with a human face on it.

    Liked by 8 people

    • I think this is an accurate assessment of what he has done. The quote from Saban above affirms it. He has a lot of star players but without the adjoining ‘glue’ of connection that is the missing jet fuel that can push a team to elite status.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. But at his age and with BamaNation’s entitlement mindset, does the GOAT have time for that shit?

    Liked by 1 person

    • chicagodawgfan

      Exactly my thought! As we all get up in the years, it’s much easier to say you’ll make a change than to actually do it due largely to complacency or unwillingness to change.


  6. David K

    He’s wrong if he thinks it’s about the NIL. Yes these kids care about their NIL deals and Bama will figure out better ways to handle that if they’re falling short, but that quote about relationships with the players stands out. Kirby took Saban’s Death Star evil empire idea of the process and added passion, love and enthusiasm. He’s seen that Kirby has eclipsed what he was capable of doing. Being a heartless, cold blooded assassin of a head coach worked for a long time, but it can’t compete with what Kirby has built in Athens.

    Liked by 13 people

    • miltondawg

      Saban is just explaining to his fans why what is happening is happening. Apparently his fans didn’t take to heart what Saban said, what…like nearly a decade ago? Georgia was the best job in the country and a sleeping giant with all of its inherent advantages over nearly every school in the nation and if Georgia ever got the right person in charge it could be a monster. Well, Georgia got the right person in charge.

      Liked by 5 people

  7. I still wouldn’t bet against Saban (unless he’s going up against UGA) but the last couple of years you are starting to see some vulnerabilities in him and his process…and given his age and ego…I’m not sure he wants to work as hard as Kirby does. I think we soon hear of the goat’s retirement…and no knock on his resume…but, for me his personality is wide open for criticism

    Liked by 3 people

    • biggusrickus

      It’s an immutable fact of life that everything ends. We likely saw the beginning of Saban’s when that kick went through in Knoxville. I can’t see a 70-year-old guy who’s accomplished everything imaginable as a college head coach putting in the amount of work required to get back that edge they’ve lost.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Might Kirby Smart be a big reason WHY they stood head and shoulders above the rest for so long?

    Liked by 12 people

    • Everyone always assumes Kirby got the most out of the symbiotic relationship with Saban at Bama. No Bama fan will admit this, but maybe Saban got the better end of the deal out of their association. It’s not like other Saban acolytes have exactly set the world on fire.

      Liked by 7 people

      • I honestly think it is both, and that’s ok. Both Kirby and Nick got a lot from each others relationship, and it looks like Nick is begging to see what Kirby brought that is lacking now at Bama. Aside from the ‘heart’ and ‘connection’ aspect, I also think there is some defensive innovation that Kirby also brings that is missing from Bama. But whatever that is a them problem. Jermaine and Nick can rest up now for the bowl game baby.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Salty Dawg

    No ‘if’ about it to me. Saban is toast. He held on for a while after Kirby’s departure feasting on Kirby’s recruiting and coaching, but it’s all caught up with him. I’d bet on Kirby any day, any time against little crybaby Nicky. We are THE one to beat, from now on out. Read it and weep, gumps! GO DAWGS!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. dman2020

    One thing I admire about Kirby this year over Saban was Saban semi panicked and raided the portal when Kirby surely had to be concerned somewhat about all the stars he lost to the NFL but stayed with the status quo.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kirby said there wasn’t a player in the portal that would have improved the roster. After seeing what a showboat Caleb Williams has become at USuCk West, I’m not sure we ever really recruited him.

      Kirby is going to go the portal if he sees a player that can improve the roster and fit into the culture he has created … the latter of which may be more important.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. whb209

    I always wondered how long standing coaches did it. I know that in the 1960’s if a coach said run into that wall, your only answer was, Yes Sir. By the late 1970’s a player would have said, Why.
    It impressed me that an old coach could handle that reply without grabbing a face mask and screaming. Many coaches only last a short period of time because of the changing in young players.
    Coach Saban has probably run out of the ability to put up with young players. In fact he almost said that in his statement.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Russ

    I guess Saban finally has time for that shit.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. southgadawg1

    I don’t think anybody realized what a major part of the Alabama machine Kirby was. Other than Nick Saban of course. As more time passes it truly looks like Kirby was what made that thing go. The reaction to this realization around the conference is really a fun thing to watch. Florida and Tennessee are both a mess. Sun Belt Billy ain’t the answer and if Tennessee was going to do anything this was the year. They had the schedule but they ran into the Kirby Death Star and wilted. Every team that is supposedly going to “expose” Georgia rangs up walking away with a bunch of bruises and a bad case of PTSD. And Ohio State is next. On the Peach Bowl press conference yesterday you could see it on Day’s demeanor and the way he sounded. He don’t want this. He does not want to be in this position. He has had his ass kicked by Michigan already and now he has to play Georgia in Atlanta. He does not want this.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. David D

    It’s simple. Kirby is digital. NIL and transfer portals are digital. Nick Saban is analog. His flip-phone days aren’t going to work any longer.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. thelifeofthemind

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Bama’s reign is over for a number of reasons, but this kind of honest self-reflection, as opposed to digging his heels in even further, is why he is the GOAT in the first place.

    Liked by 6 people

  16. 86bone

    It’s very simple guys…

    Liked by 1 person

    • godawgs1701

      That doesn’t work with today’s 18-22 year olds. It just doesn’t, it’s a different time. They’re more than happy to put the TEAM up top if the ME also gets to be big. It’s a much more delicate balancing act in coaching these days, I have friends who coach high school sports and I watched my step son who is now a college swimmer and how he interacts with coaches and… it’s just different now. Kirby seems to have a very good handle on how to empower and motivate his players and keep them focused on what the main thing SHOULD be and also help them take care of what they tend to focus on instead of the main thing at times. Saban adapting to the modern athlete is much more difficult that adapting to just having to throw the ball more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think Kirby has really sold the whole organization on “rising water lifts everyone’s boat”.


        • godawgs1701

          He has, and part of the way he has done that is to be careful with who he is bringing into the room. It isn’t just about scrolling down on the 247 sports composite to see who the highest rated guy at each position is. While it’s not an exact science by any means, Kirby has definitely tried to recruit guys who aren’t exclusively after the biggest NIL deal or the biggest stats or just about me first – and he’s backed off of some guys who turned out to be that way, like Zach Evans. And he’s also moved on some guys from the roster who didn’t turn out to be good locker room guys. That’s a luxury he can afford because he and his staff and the program at large have been so great at recruiting great talent to Athens. But it is also part of the plan and not any kind of accident.

          Liked by 1 person

          • PeachPit

            I totally agree! There was a report that Saban just stepped over a player who fell on the floor when he was in Miami.

            I can’t see Kirby doing anything like that to his hand picked players. I think that each recruit has been evaluated from academics to motivation to character. It seems Georgia often had to take what it could get during Mark Richt’s years. That 247 list meant a lot without Kirby’s criteria.

            I guess I’m thinking about Isaiah Crowell and all of his problems. Actually, CMR had some really good players, but I know that Kirby has a complete vetting process that he uses, because I see it in the kind of people that he does allow onto the team.

            I do think it’s as much allow as just shooting for stars.


  17. realitycheckhere

    Saban is 70. That is empirical. People in their 70’s are in decline. He is still great, and, as the Senator has pointed out, he is still great at recruiting. Even though he continues to recruit well, many of the highly touted recruits have not developed like in the past. Wide receivers have been especially noticeable.

    The last 2 years Alabama has started to experience more close wins. This year that crack widened. He lost 2 0f them. Those are facts.

    I can’t claim it as a fact, but my perception is this year Alabama seems to have lost some of their advantageous calls from SEC refs. They were still getting them early, but that seemed to happen less as the year went on.

    Saban is still great. His decline is a relative term. You better play your best or he will beat, but Alabama is not the invincible juggernaut it was. Because he is still great His decline is likely to be slow. Bear Bryant’s was and Saban will likely be too.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. godawgs1701

    Shorter Nick Saban: “If the players understood that they should have played harder it would have made up for the fact that I completely forgot how to manage the clock against Tennessee.”

    Liked by 4 people

  19. PTC DAWG

    I been telling y’all.


  20. dawginsga

    “You want them to stay focused on the task at hand”. Eh, Coach Saban Aflac has asked we put together another commercial. We will start the week before your bowl game………….

    Liked by 1 person

  21. flydawg

    I am around several high profile high school recruits and I can tell you that no matter where they are thinking about going to play they love Kirby and will tell you he is their favorite coach. Surprisingly to me they also love Muschamp.
    Kirby may be the best high school talent evaluator
    Ever. He may not get them all right but he doesn’t miss many


    • I compare this to what I’ve heard about Saban when he was in Miami. He supposedly told the Dolphins’ owner that no one outside the football operation was allowed to speak to him even if they passed in the hall.

      I saw Kirby at a high school game a few years ago, and my daughter and I approached him at the visitors’ concession stand. Super nice. Stopped for a picture and a quick chat while he was holding a big cup of boiled peanuts he had just bought. He asked her what she was studying at UGA and asked me when I graduated and what I did. Another time a year later he came over to me at an alumni event and spoke to me and my oldest daughter who had just graduated from undergrad. She pulled out her diploma and asked him to sign it. He was flattered and said “are you sure?” because he said he had never been asked to autograph a diploma.

      If he has that same demeanor with alumni and fans, I can imagine he can turn it up to 11 with recruits and families.

      Liked by 4 people

  22. Clayton Joiner

    I personally think it has a lot to do with staff too…he’s got mercenaries on his staff.


    • flydawg

      Coach Hartly is awesome with the kids and is relentless. I talked to him when they were recruiting Ladd and he was in Tampa the following morning at 8:00am. They could not have gotten home before midnight. Then the following day he was in Napa to see you know who. Crazy!!!


  23. Terry McCullers

    But Senator what if Kirby wins 3 in a row, a feat that no coach has accomplished I believe. They better start swooning after that. Right?


  24. TripleB

    Saban is the greatest coach ever, but I think Kirby is better than Saban now. Why? Kirby relates better to players.

    Example: Saban talks to them about “improving their value” and “trusting the process” and avoiding “external factors.” Kirby says the same things in a language they can relate to, PLUS he makes them want to run through walls when he talks to them like he did during Florida at half-time. “Don’t say shit” and “I want to break these bitches” is a little less corporate to a young man. They relate!


  25. “you have great relationships with all your players” says Saban
    “build a winning culture in Athens” says the Senator
    The best thing that Kirby has done is convince them that the Team means more than the player. Players he could not get to buy into that (Jermaine Burton) are encouraged to pursue other opportunities or at least not discouraged from doing so.


  26. dman2020

    Saban is clinging to the past as much as he is clinging onto what remains of his hair.